20 February 1877

Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake receives its premiere at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

“Swan Lake” is one of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s most famous ballets, composed in 1875–1876. It tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse, and Prince Siegfried, who falls in love with her.

Here’s an overview of the plot:

Act I: Prince Siegfried is celebrating his coming of age. His mother, the Queen, tells him he must choose a bride at the royal ball the following evening. Siegfried, feeling pressured, goes hunting with his friends. He chases a flock of swans to a lake and aims to shoot them but refrains when he sees one transform into a beautiful woman, Odette. She explains her plight to him: she and her companions are under the spell of the sorcerer Rothbart, condemned to be swans by day and women only by night.

Act II: Prince Siegfried attends the royal ball with his friends but is disheartened by the women presented to him as potential brides. Rothbart, disguised as a nobleman, arrives with his daughter Odile, who looks strikingly similar to Odette. Siegfried, deceived by Rothbart’s magic, declares his love for Odile, unknowingly breaking his vow to Odette. This action dooms Odette and her companions to remain swans forever.

Act III: Realizing his mistake, Siegfried rushes back to the lake to find Odette and beg her forgiveness. Despite her love for him, Odette knows they cannot be together because of Rothbart’s curse. In some versions, Siegfried and Odette choose to die together by leaping into the lake, while in others, they defeat Rothbart, breaking the curse and finding eternal peace.

Tchaikovsky’s score for “Swan Lake” is renowned for its lush melodies, stirring emotions, and evocative use of leitmotifs to represent characters and themes. The ballet is also notable for its demanding choreography, particularly in the roles of Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried.

“Swan Lake” premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1877, but it wasn’t until a revised version by choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov premiered at the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg in 1895 that it achieved widespread popularity. Today, “Swan Lake” remains a staple of classical ballet repertoire and continues to captivate audiences worldwide with its timeless tale of love, betrayal, and redemption.

20 February 1872

The Metropolitan Museum of Art opens in New York City

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as the “Met,” is one of the largest and most comprehensive art museums in the world. It is located in New York City and is a cultural icon of the city. Here are some of the reasons why the Met is so special:

Vast Collection: The Met’s collection consists of over 2 million works of art spanning 5,000 years of world culture. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, costumes, and textiles, among other things. The Met’s collection is so vast that it is impossible to see everything in one visit.

World-Class Exhibitions: The Met regularly hosts special exhibitions that are among the most highly anticipated in the world. These exhibitions cover a wide range of topics and periods and often include loaned works from other museums and private collections.

Location: The Met is located in Central Park on Fifth Avenue, making it a prime location in one of the world’s most vibrant and cultural cities.

Architecture: The Met’s Beaux-Arts building is an architectural masterpiece that was designed by Richard Morris Hunt in 1902. The building’s grand entrance and iconic steps have been featured in countless films, and the interior features impressive galleries and exhibition spaces.

Accessibility: The Met is committed to accessibility, with free admission for all visitors, and offers a wide range of educational programs and resources for visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

Overall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is special because of its vast collection, world-class exhibitions, prime location, impressive architecture, and commitment to accessibility. It is a must-visit destination for art lovers, history buffs, and anyone interested in exploring the world’s cultural heritage.

20 February 1872

The Metropolitan Museum of Art opens in New York.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City, colloquially “the Met”, is the largest art museum in the United States. With 7.06 million visitors to its three locations in 2016, it was the third most visited art museum in the world, and the fifth most visited museum of any kind. Its permanent collection contains over two million works, divided among seventeen curatorial departments. The main building, on the eastern edge of Central Park along Museum Mile in Manhattan ‘s Upper East Side is by area one of the world’s largest art galleries. A much smaller second location, The Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, contains an extensive collection of art, architecture, and artifacts from Medieval Europe. On March 18, 2016, the museum opened the Met Breuer museum at Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side; it extends the museum’s modern and contemporary art program.

The permanent collection consists of works of art from classical antiquity and ancient Egypt, paintings, and sculptures from nearly all the European masters, and an extensive collection of American and modern art. The Met maintains extensive holdings of African, Asian, Oceanian, Byzantine, and Islamic art. The museum is home to encyclopedic collections of musical instruments, costumes, and accessories, as well as antique weapons and armor from around the world. Several notable interiors, ranging from first-century Rome through modern American design, are installed in its galleries.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870 for the purposes of opening a museum to bring art and art education to the American people. It opened on February 20, 1872, and was originally located at 681 Fifth Avenue.

20 February 1872

The Metropolitan Museum of Art opens in New York City.

One hundred and forty years ago, on February 20, 1872, The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its doors to the public for the first time. When the Museum was founded two years earlier, it had no building and no artwork, but the institution’s Trustees moved quickly to assemble the nucleus of its now-encyclopedic art collection, notably through the acquisition of a group of 174 old-master paintings that became known as the “Purchase of 1871”. One year later, in 1872, the Trustees secured the Museum’s first exhibition space when they signed a $9,000, one-year lease for the Dodworth Building at 681 Fifth Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets. The building had formerly served as a private residence and a dance academy.

Museum President John Taylor Johnston wrote a vivid account of the Museum’s opening reception: “We had a fine turnout of ladies and gentlemen and all were highly pleased. The pictures looked splendid, and compliments were so plenty and strong that I was afraid the mouths of the Trustees would become chronically and permanently fixed in a broad grin … We may now consider the Museum fairly launched and under favorable auspices… We have something to point to as the Museum, something tangible and something good.”

Three months later, the Museum’s first superintendent, George P. Putnam, reported that over six thousand visitors had viewed the Metropolitan’s opening exhibition, “including Artists, Students, Critics, and Amateurs from other cities and especially a considerable number of visitors from Boston.” A notable reviewer of the opening show was author Henry James—then twenty-eight years old and still little known—who observed that through the Purchase of 1871 “the Metropolitan Museum of Art has an enviably solid foundation for future acquisition and development.” James also praised “the altogether exemplary and artistic Catalogue” that accompanied the exhibition.

The Museum remained in its first home until 1873, when it moved to larger quarters in the Douglas Mansion on West 14th Street. In 1880, the Metropolitan opened its first building at its current location in Central Park.

20 February 1877

Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake is first shown at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

Swan Lake is ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, was composed in 1875–1876. The scenario, initially in four acts, was fashioned from Russian folk tales and tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse. The choreographer of the original production was Julius Reisinger. The ballet was premiered by the Bolshoi Ballet on 4 March 1877 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, billed as The Lake of the Swans. Although it is presented in many different versions, most ballet companies base their stagings both choreographically and musically on the 1895 revival of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, first staged for the Imperial Ballet on 15 January 1895, at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. For this revival, Tchaikovsky’s score was revised by the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre’s chief conductor and composer Riccardo Drigo.

The first show took place on February 20, 1877, and was a flop. The critics reviled the chief choreographer, Wentsel Reisinger, and were short on praise for Polina (Pelageya) Karpakova, the first interpreter of the main female part. The failure of the first show was detrimental for the immediate reputation of the ballet itself, and for quite some time nobody dared to stage it again.

It was this particular stage version that came to be admired as the pinnacle of Russian ballet. This production, as none other, was the perfect setting for many famous dancers to showcase their art. The Swan Lake is a unique and perfect creation, and despite the changing musical and dancing fashions, the performance of Odette and Odile parts is still considered a touchstone for the mettle of any serious dancer. The White Swan is truly a symbol of Russian Ballet, of its beauty and magnificence.